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Dough doesn’t pass the smell test

Eve, the monitor and tablet company that some accuse of walking away with their money, hasn’t fixed its reputation.

Image: Eve

Here’s a truth I learned over the past four weeks: I would absolutely not trust Dough with my money.

We’ve been writing about Dough, formerly Eve, since 2017. The company makes monitors and made tablets that got excellent reviews! But it’s also developed a reputation for disappearing with people’s money — a charge it disputes — and leaving some people without their products or a refund for months or years at a time. Four weeks ago, Dough finally promised to fix that reputation with rapid refunds and customer support.

I decided to put that to the test, inviting any Verge reader to reach out if they didn’t get help soon.

Now, 42 current and former Dough customers representing nearly $50,000 in sales tell The Verge they were ghosted by the company after promises of refunds and ship dates. Most say they continue to be ghosted even after filling out the company’s supposedly rapid-response form.

“We really want to improve our reputation”

Four weeks ago, Dough claimed its fortunes had turned. The upstart monitor company insisted it would offer refunds “very soon” to the customers it left behind. It slapped together a new Customer Issue Resolution Form so anyone who fell through the cracks could supposedly get rapid help, suggesting they could receive their refunds or get their missing monitors shipped within mere hours.

“Especially now that we are launching in retail and shipping online from our webshop in 48 hours, we really want to improve our reputation,” Eve and Dough co-founder Konstantinos Karatsevidis told The Verge.

But it doesn’t seem that Dough wanted to improve its reputation enough to issue many quick refunds — or even stay in touch with customers who filled out the company’s new form.

Out of 42 respondents, only eight people told me they got their money back. Four of those were forced credit card chargebacks — two Visa, one American Express, one Mastercard — so they don’t really help the company’s reputation. Of the genuine refunds, three out of four were merely the buyer getting back a $100 deposit because they’d never gone through with their full order.

“You got $200 from Konstantinos Karatsevidis,” reads a receipt from Wise.
One person got a refund for two deposits — seemingly from the Dough boss himself. “All refunds come from company funds, not from Konstantinos. The account we use is registered to his name due to requirements from Wise,” says Dough.
Screenshot by Sean Hollister / The Verge

Only a single person confirmed they got a full monitor refund after filling out the form, sharing their credit card statement with The Verge as proof. But that person ordered their monitor only one month ago and changed their mind within a week.

That timing makes things much easier for Dough: “All orders placed after March are refunded immediately, as we are able to process the refunds directly to their payment method,” Dough marketing and sales lead Javier Leal told me.

Meanwhile, 11 people told me that after filling out the form, they got no response at all. I checked with each of them again this past week to be safe, and they’d still received no new communication from Dough. So much for “very soon.”

Of those who did get a response, nine tell me they gave Dough their personal bank account numbers — and yet are still waiting for their refunds. Some of them were promised a refund by the first or second week of September, deadlines that have already flown by.

When they asked about the status of those refunds, the people say, they got no reply.

Most customers didn’t seem surprised by this behavior, though. They told me they’ve been ghosted for months or even years by this company — and provided reams of old email as proof.

“Please allow up to 20 business days for the refund to process” is one of the most common phrases I saw in those emails. Some of those “20-day” promises were broken months ago; some of them were broken years ago. Two of them were broken this August.

There’s an obvious reason why the company’s refund promises stretch back years. The company famously couldn’t deliver to all the buyers of its original Eve V tablet from 2017 and didn’t refund them, either, pointing the blame at a suspiciously related entity called Fortress Tech that, it claimed, walked away with the money.

But the emails I received from Eve customers show it had promised refunds to those customers too — “We estimate that we will be able to ship you a device in Q3/2020, or the cash refund in Q4/2020 at the earliest,” is another exceptionally common phrase I saw. Importantly, it said that to customers in 2020 — after a previous promise to do better, after shifting the blame to Fortress Tech, and after those customers had filled out a previous rapid response refund form.

So when Dough / Eve tries to tell you it’s not responsible for those customers — the company goes back and forth on this point — know it already promised to make them whole.

Of the 11 customers who were newly ghosted after filling out the form, there are a couple obvious themes: many of them purchased an Eve tablet rather than a monitor, and the others were mostly trying to get support for a monitor that (customers claim) was shipped broken or bricked by a firmware update. Dough is fully aware that it’s ignoring the V tablet customers, telling me that it had received 18 form submissions from “V customers from Fortress” who “won’t be refunded yet.”

That doesn’t mean Dough is wholly unwilling to ship out new product. One grateful customer told me he’s already received a replacement monitor after showing me pictures of massive vertical banding across his entire original screen.

Dough — Eve — already sent out a form in 2020 that promised devices or refunds. Many customers are still waiting.
Dough — Eve — already sent out a form in 2020 that promised devices or refunds. Many customers are still waiting.
Screenshot from customer email

Another just received his Spectrum 4K monitor a year and a half after ordering it, after seven months of arguing with the company for a refund, and long after it started shipping direct from the company’s website. He was told last summer that his refund was just “20 business days” away, too. But they finally shipped it after he filled out the form, I verified, thanks to his UPS tracking number.

“Without your coverage, I’m convinced I would have never received the product,” he told me.

Here’s another success story that caught my eye:

It was not until I competed the form in your story that I finally received a refund of the deposit today. Although I am happy to receive money which I had effectively written off, it’s both curious and disappointing that there was neither an apology or an explanation as to why it took so long, or any other sort of gesture of good will, and not until the media got involved.

Here’s the nicest thing I heard from a customer:

I mean, I would have preferred a refund (given that I’ve since bought a new monitor), which I expressed, but it’s obviously cheaper and less cashflow impact-y to send me a new monitor. I guess I can’t complain right now - but being ignored for 4 months and only getting a ticket responded to once you were both on CC does say something about Dough still, I suppose.

Now, obviously I’m seeing the worst of Dough — the most neglected customers are the ones who tend to reach out to journalists, and big brands certainly disappoint a number of their customers, too.

For its part, Dough claims it has processed 60 refunds as of this past Wednesday, has 68 more refunds pending, has shipped 110 orders and solved nine warranty cases since it created its new form. Leal says there are 16 orders that are simply waiting for a customer to confirm their address.

Leal also claimed that “there have been cases of customers trying to abuse the system by claiming a refund again,” providing a partial email address of a customer who reached out to me as an example, and I did find some truth to that — they’d gotten a pending chargeback refund from their credit card and were pursuing things with Dough because it wasn’t final.

Even if we take Dough at its word, I find it weird that the number of pending refunds is growing rather than shrinking, from 63 pending refunds on September 7th to 68 pending refunds on September 13th.

I am also a little skeptical that it took this form to get even this amount of movement. While Dough suggested to me that its many system migrations and departing team members might have seen customers slip through the cracks (“a single member leaving our team can cause critical process information to be lost,” wrote Leal), many customers who were promised a refund — and subsequently ghosted — spoke to a support rep named Gino, and some of them were still emailing Gino as recently as last month.

(BTW, every Verge reader who filled out the form apparently got their response from a customer service rep using the pseudonym “Aethel,” who appears to be a Web3 enthusiast named Bobby who added and then removed mentions of Dough from his LinkedIn page. Dough lists him as head & team lead of customer engagement, but his LinkedIn now makes him look like a recent graduate who’s never held a job.)

Last but not least, one customer appears to have caught Dough in a possible lie: last month, the company told me it should have already refunded every single person who bought a QHD 144Hz monitor that it now claims it never even started developing — but one person shared proof the company didn’t do so until September 7th, weeks after my story.

Dough allegedly kept taking money for this monitor with no intent of shipping.
Dough allegedly kept taking money for this monitor with no intent of shipping.
Screenshot by Sean Hollister / The Verge

A former Dough employee tells The Verge that the company intentionally kept selling this monitor for a long time after they’d canceled it internally in the summer of 2020. When he asked leadership to at least remove it from the store, they refused. “No, they said, because they needed the preorder money.”

You have options

In 2019, Dough’s then-CEO told us, “I think we’ve made all the mistakes there are to make” — promising that future products wouldn’t leave buyers hung out to dry.

But the emails I’ve seen suggest the company never stopped letting customers down, never stopped promising ship dates and refunds that weren’t forthcoming, and never stopped needing sunlight as disinfectant. Remember, Dough only created this most recent form after journalists started snooping around.

I expect you’ll make up your own mind about this company, but I want you to know you have options.

First, you should know that Dough uses the same LCD and OLED panels as every other monitor maker in the industry. If you want a 32-inch 4K OLED monitor, Dough won’t have the only one, and its track record strongly suggests it won’t even have the first. If we take Dough at its word, this is a company that’s issued 25,000 refunds over its tablet and monitor history while only shipping 10,000 monitors — that ratio alone would have me looking at other companies.

Dough’s value adds are design, price, and ports, and you’ll have to balance that against the possibility that your money might sit in the company’s bank account for ages and — at least according to a few Verge readers — your ports might stop working or have major incompatibilities. Those who do get working monitors seem to like them, though.

Second, if you need your refund or your missing device, grant me permission to pass along your name and order number to Dough directly at sean@theverge.com, using the subject line “You can tell Dough.” I suspect the company will move on those support cases faster because I will write another story if they don’t.

Third, if you’ve ordered since March and want to cancel, the company claims it can process those refunds instantly. Tell me if they don’t.

Fourth, critics like r/evev subreddit moderator Kirk Miller suggest you do not let the company promise a refund that would put you past your deadline for a credit card chargeback. While I can’t confirm his theory that Dough intentionally pushes people past that deadline, I think it’s common sense to get your credit card involved after everything I’ve seen. The company has the ability to issue refunds very quickly if it wants to, and chargebacks do seem to work.

Fifth, you do not need to give this company your bank account information. Dough is also offering refunds through Wise, a money transfer service that several Verge staffers have successfully used for other things.

When I asked the US Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the Federal Trade Commission about providing direct bank account information to an untrusted company, both told me it was risky. “The combination of information that you listed would make it easy for a fraudster to perpetrate a scam via a customer service agent or some other social engineering scam,” wrote Tia Elbaum, a spokesperson for the CFPB.

I don’t know what to tell you if you’re still waiting for a refund on your original Eve V tablet, though. The company really, really doesn’t seem to want to help. Originally, Leal told me that Dough was “required” to refund its own customers before helping out any “Fortress customers.”

Then, he clarified that it wasn’t a “hard legal requirement but instead a guiding principle of how the company should be run.”

I asked: “One of the company’s guiding principles is to leave its earliest supporters in the lurch?”

Leal explained:

The hard legal requirement is to act in the best interest of the company and operate to generate profit. By taking funds out of our operation to pay the remaining Fortress customers in one go, we would be affecting our actual customers by causing delays to our shipments and project development timelines. This is why we are gradually working to solve these problems, and things are looking to be on track for us to be able to allocate more funds to these efforts soon.

Dough insists that refunds are a high priority despite all the ghosting I’ve seen. When I asked Dough which of its business operations are lower priority, Leal replied:

The only tasks with higher priority are essential company functions, like shipping orders, paying suppliers, and doing our bookkeeping. There are many tasks that take a lower priority until we process the full backlog, like hiring new team members, developing new projects, and most paid marketing activities, just to name a few.

That doesn’t compute for me, as Dough has continually announced monitor after monitor during the time period covered by the emails I’ve seen. And if “developing new projects” is a lower priority than issuing refunds, then why did he tell me earlier that issuing refunds would negatively impact “project development timelines?”

I suspect it’d be in the “best interests” of Dough to stop prompting journalists to write stories like this one.